How to Build a Scope Document
Building Your Scope Document: a guide to taking your app idea from concept to quote. Essential Designs is an app development company headquartered in Vancouver, with additional offices in Toronto and Calgary.
Essential Designs Team
September 5, 2018
Building Your Scope Document: Where to Start
You have a great idea for an app, now what are the next steps to taking your idea from just a concept to a usable application? At Essential Designs, we field calls daily from customers with great ideas but who are unsure of how to move forward and properly implement their vision. How do you take a mobile app from concept - to a detailed quote - to production - to end product? The most important starting point, in our opinion, is to dive into building your Scope Document. Some call it a Scope of Work or a Scope Statement. At its core, it is simply a document that describes your project in as much detail as possible. Don’t let your level of technical expertise become a roadblock – your development team just needs to understand in layman’s terms exactly what you want to build.
To help our new customers, we've created a Scope Builder Template:
Scope Document Basics
You can simply start writing – start penning down in as much detail as you can muster – everything you want your app to do, how it should work for a user, and any special details you have in mind. The goal is to type up a document as if you are trying to explain to someone what your idea is, who has no idea or prior knowledge on your idea or vision. You need to communicate with that person in as much detail as possible. It's going to be more helpful than broad-stroke concepts. All of the small ideas add up to the larger vision, capturing as many nooks and crannies as possible that need to be exposed. Some of us are more entrepreneurial or strategic-minded and find that providing this level of detail to be a challenge. In this instance, it can be helpful to concentrate on explaining the project from your future User’s standpoint. Try putting yourself in the driver’s seat of the app and convey what you see and how it works. The bottom line is that anything at all that you can get on paper is going to be helpful information, and this will give your development company the ingredients to work with to start building out a project quote.
Advanced Scope Document Tools
Do you have more of a detail-oriented, technical brain? Some ways to further convey your vision can include:
- Illustrations and sketches
- Sticky notes
- User stories
There are all kinds of tools available on the web to help you with this process, from Visual Sitemap tools to App Flowchart builders, below are a few useful ones we recommend playing around with. Once you start digging into the layout process, it can be quite fun and give you further ideas on app ‘Wishlist’ items you may want to add in the future.
- https://www.lucidchart.com - diagrams / flowcharts
- https://creately.com/ - diagrams
- https://www.gloomaps.com/ - visual sitemaps
- https://balsamiq.com/ - wireframing
- https://storiesonboard.com/ - user stories
- https://www.featuremap.co/en/ - user story mapping
A Good Scope Document Can Lower your Project Quote
Freelance developers and development agencies can have different methods of quoting software projects. At Essential Designs, we provide fixed price quotes. This means we will review all available information, break down each requirement to estimate the hours required to design and code it, and come up with an overall project cost.
Any form of scope document can give your development team a decent footing to get started on quoting your project, but we have found that the more detail you are able to provide, typically, the lower your overall project price will be. The reason detailed information helps lower your cost is twofold:
- When it is foggy or unclear on what is being built, more padding and buffer room need to be included in your quote. Something that may seem like a small addition in software development can often have widespread impacts, including affecting APIs, database structure, User Experience and more. When something unexpected causes a large impact, it can change a project’s timeline by forcing the development team to undertake unexpected work. If your scope document is detailed enough, you will slice off hours of extra padding as we’re able to get laser focused on our detailed breakdown of components, development hours and your final quote price.
- In our extensive experience, the exercise of creating your scope document is extremely helpful! As you work through it, you will think and re-think your concept in order to flush it out on paper. Visualizing your ideas, reviewing them in a tangible form and continuing to rework and edit the final product will sometimes even leave you with a concept that is slightly different than your original idea. Ultimately, having reviewed and refined your vision so much initially, you will likely end up wanting to make fewer changes down the road when these changes would have a bigger development, timeline, and financial impact.
When your Scope Document is Complete
After your scope document has been created, it’s time for your development team to do a thorough review. We’ll comb through the document and come back to you with lists of questions. Sometimes the questions seem redundant, however, it’s important to still get as much detail to fill in any gaps in understanding what you are visualizing the application to do. We don’t expect the document to have included specific technical information, so we will ask the appropriate questions to help add in the proper functionality. Once a few iterations of questions have changed hands, we will have enough substance from your Scope Document in order to start on our regimented software development process! Having been in business for over 10 years, we have refined the process to deliver the best results for our clients.
The App Development Process
Now that you've finished the hard part, we can take over and start bringing your vision to life. We like to parallel software development to building a house: we are the construction company here to build anything from a 'tiny home' to a sprawling mansion. First, we need to draft a blueprint, make design choices, then start into digging the foundation, building the walls, adding a roof, and of course the finishing details. Our five-step process is detailed out below.
- Planning - At the start of each project, we work with our customers to build a solid project plan. The initial Scope document can come from the client or a combined process of phone calls and in-person meetings. Once the Scope is finalized, it is used to build out the complete proposal and as the launching point for the initial wireframes.
- Wireframing - With a finalized plan and Scope for the project, our wireframing team takes over to create the placement of all objects on each page of the application. Whether a consumer mobile app or a backend business application, this is the stage that we come to a final agreement on what will be placed on each page for the user to access.
- Design - Once the wireframes for all pages are locked, it is time for our design team to take over and create the final look and feel of the application. This is the phase of the project where you will see the complete application come to life, and you will be presented with clickable versions to experience everything that the user goes through, prior to code.
- Code - With the wireframes and designs finalized, it is now time to begin Code work on the application and make it functional. We are an Agile development shop, and as such, the project is broken down into baskets of features called Sprints. Our customers can regularly review the progress of their software development process and provide feedback at the end of each Sprint.
- Deployment - After the application is completed, approved by our internal QA, project management and the client – we are ready to deploy the code to its end destination. There are many options for hosting of the project code, from running on a client owned server to a basic web host or cloud hosting provider. We counsel each client on the options and manage final steps.
By Mary MacPherson
Mary is a popular Vancouver DJ and has been working in the high tech field since her inception as a web developer at Newbridge Networks in 1996.
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